January 26, 2012

On Keeping the Pace, Outpacing Myself

On Keeping the Pace, Outpacing Myself

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more 
~ Steve Prefontaine

I think I have mentioned my competitive nature in this blog before? Mostly, I am not so much competitive with others. I am, however, fiercely self-competitive and I am constantly trying to figure out improve on, better and best my own accomplishments. This has pros and cons. On the upside, it has led me to a pretty successful career…on the downside, it can leave me exhausted from spending energy on things that could really be left alone to progress along some natural course.

At the suggestion of a friend I recently read the book Strengths Finder 2.0 (might say more about that another time) and took the associated test. One of my top 5 strengths showed up as “Achiever” which is, in part, defined as one who “needs to prove yourself to yourself each day.” When I read that, I thought, “Yep- pretty much.” You see – and don’t take this personally – I don’t care all that much about how I stack up against you. But I do care a lot that the me of today is better than the me of yesterday.

In the endeavor of fitness, this is a particularly interesting challenge as each and every day is also one more step in the progressive process of aging.  So, technically speaking, this should be a bit more of an uphill battle with each step. Next to myself, time is a pretty worthy adversary I say.

Lately, I find that I am competing against time – in more than one way.

So here’s my confession: despite efforts that I may make to not worry much about my speed and distance, I have become a little obsessed with pace lately. It started when I was experimenting with simply keeping a steady pace (which I thought would make it easier to run a bit longer). Figuring out how to run a steady pace led to actually being conscious of my pace and thus being able to compare it to the pace of others (mistake 1…). I then learned from a treadmill that my pace constituted “jogging” rather than running (you can read about that here)

Every since that day, I have been wondering a bit, in the back of my head, what it would take to be faster. I have tried different pacing on my treadmill, I am experimenting with faster paced music – I am back to experimenting with no music to see if perhaps the beat of the music itself limits my pace to some degree. I listen intently when other runners talk about their pace – and what they think is good or bad, and what constitutes their best pace or their marathon pace (still not sure what that means).

But when I pause, and I let myself separate form the obsession just a bit, I ask the question “why is this important to me?” The question leads me again and again to the more fundamental question of why do any of us keep doing what we do. If you love a thing, the love itself might explain it. But if you don’t…
If one of my strengths is self-betterment, maybe I naturally find ways to seek that out to keep myself going? Maybe people who are naturally competitive with others seek out races for the same reason? Maybe those who shy away from all things competitive could teach the rest of us what it is like to not push towards a goal but to somehow drift towards it like rocks being pushed down the stream.

Today, I am feeling inclined to embrace my nature a bit and see where it takes me.


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